Scale your start-up

You are looking to grow your business but you are not sure where to start? Here are some tips to get you

Baby steps

Here is what you have when you start:

 A vision (you need to know where you want to go). If we're talking about growth, we assume you're ambitious.
 A starting offer, ideally as precise as possible: an offer for a niche market. Remember: Focus, focus, focus!
 An embryonic organization, no need for more at first.

To grow, you will have to move from this first configuration to a more diversified range of activities, managed by an increasingly strong structure.

What's happening ?

To explain the development of a young company, we can point out specific phases. They are not necessarily exactly the same for each company but it is common to distinguish :

 A 'seed stage' during which things are being set up but there are no real commercial activities yet;
 A 'start-up stage' with the first sales;
 An 'early growth stage' with activities that gain in regularity and size;
A 'fast growth stage', often characterized by activities on an increasingly large territory and/or an increasingly diversified offer.


Each stage is characterized by significant changes in:

 The team: size, role specialization, formalization of the organization and decision-making bodies. Beware, the most delicate question is often to understand how your own role will evolve!
 The precision and scope of the product or service offer. At the beginning, we often tend to say 'yes to everything', just to see. Over time, the products or services become more and more standard.
 The nature of the link with the customers. With time, the relationship is more and more homogeneous for all customers.
 The production capacity
 The type of financing needed, which will often increase, and come from different types of financial partners.…

If you want to grow, try to anticipate things: describe the steps in your own words and specify the goals to be reached before moving from one step to another.

Choose an engine

To guide your thinking about growing your revenue and/or profit margins, you can consider 4 main growth strategies:

 Stay focused on your offer and your initial market by fighting to gain and then consolidate your market share. Here the management of your commercial cycle (including your notoriety, the loyalty of your customers, the multiplication of the sales channels, ...) is the n°1 stake. Today, growth hacking is a common practice, especially for digital projects.
 Diversify your offer, i.e. try to sell more (new) products or services to the same customers
 Flooding new markets with the same offer; launching in new geographical areas or approaching new sectors. Here, it is quickly a question of going international because Belgium is not very large.
 Choosing to integrate activities upstream or downstream of your core business, i.e. taking over activities that you used to outsource to external partners (e.g. suppliers or commercial intermediaries).

Bear in mind

Before taking action, you will also ask yourself some very practical but essential questions:

 How fast? Try to anticipate how easy, and therefore how fast, your action plan will be to implement. For some projects, speed will be important: 'speed matters'.
 Going to the next scale? Ask yourself if your production capacity will follow. Some activities are much easier than others to scale up, this is called "scalability".
 Make yourself, buy alone or with a partner? Are you going to do everything yourself, or buy companies that complement your project and allow you to go faster and further, or are you going to try to make partnerships and keep the same kind of objectives? This is the "make or buy" decision.
 What profitability? Are you going to invest - and therefore probably have to raise funds - to grow or do you prefer self-financed growth? In the first case, don’t lose sight of the question of growth project’s sustainability.

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